A Simple Project Manager on the HP Palmtop

Appointment Book provides basic project management already built into the HP Palmtop.

By Rich Hall

In recent years, extremely sophisticated project management systems have evolved to track what is to be done, who is to do it, how long it will take, etc. Some of these systems will even work on the HP Palmtop, letting you schedule projects and manage deadlines on the go. (Please see the Product Index on page 51 for references to Project KickStart, Project:Vision, and ProTracs, three Project Managers that have been mentioned in past issues.)

 Sophisticated project managers are great, but if your project management needs are simpler than that, you already have a program that will suit your basic needs. The Palmtops built-in Appointment Book lets you enter repeating appointments (tasks) and document them fully in the spacious Notes field. Then you can view tasks involved in the project from Appointment Books Week and Month view.

 The general strategy is to create a separate Appointment Book .ADB file for individual projects, enter your milestones (concrete things to accomplish) on specific dates and describe the task involved in the Notes field. Alternatively, you can keep all your projects in one .ADB file, or merge the individual Appointment Book files into one .ADB file to compare timelines and see how your projects relate.

Producing an issue of The HP Palmtop Paper

An example will help clarify this approach. Lets look at how we could have used this approach to track the production of an issue of The HP Palmtop Paper. Specifically, lets look at a simplified version of the schedule we used to publish the 1995 Best Tips issue.

Work officially began on the 1995 Best Tips issue on January 23, 1995. Below is a simplified version of the steps involved in producing the Best Tips issue, with a time estimate for each step, and the initials of the person(s) responsible for that step:

Step 1: Preliminary selection and prioritization of tips from past issues (5 working days) RH PM.

Step 2: Preliminary layout to determine the number of pages of tips we have (3 days) RH.

Step 3: Decide upon size of completed issue (1 day) RH HG.

Step 4: Eliminate low priority tips (1 day) RH PM HG.

Step 5: Update remaining tips (10 days) RH PM.

Step 6: Final tip selection (2 days) RH PM HG.

Step 7: Layout/proofing (5 days) RH PM.

Step 8: To the printer (on 1 day) RH.

Step 9: Issue received from printer (1 day) TG.

Setting up the Appointment Book project manager

Well open a new Appointment Book and key in part of the schedule.

  1. 1. Open Appointment Book and press (MENU) File New. Give the .ADB file a new name (e.g., PROJMANG .ADB) and press (ENTER) or (F10).
  2. 2. Enter each step described above as an appointment on the day the step begins. Follow these instructions for each step:
  3. 2A. Press (F2) to add an appointment. Enter an abbreviated description of the step along with the initials of the person responsible. For Step 1 described above, I entered Select Prelim / RH PM. You will have to abbreviate the entry intelligently so something meaningful appears in your Week Month views.
  4. 2B. Tab to the Start Time and Start Date and key in the appropriate data. For Step 1 above I entered 10:00 am for the start time, and keyed in 1/23/1995 as the Start Date. I set the steps to start at the beginning of my work day so they would display at the top of the Week view (an exception is described in point 3 below). I set separate appointments for meetings related to a specific step (e.g., the meeting we were to have at 2:00 pm on Friday, January 27 to go over the preliminary selection). I didn't enter the step as an Event because Events only display one line of the Event description in the Week view.
  5. 2C. Set the appointment as repeating. Press (F8) to set it up as a repeating appointment (if the step continues over more than one day). The repeat option you select will depend on how long the step will take. For example, Step 1 above was supposed to last 5 working days, so I selected the Daily option, tabbed to the Duration field and modified the Ending date to read 1/27/1995, which was five working days later. Press (F10) twice to return to the main Appointments screen.



Week and Month View in Appt Book : Graphic
  1. 2D. Press (F3) and add any notes describing the Step you just entered. You can use this field to describe that step more completely, describe smaller steps involved in accomplishing that step, describe materials you need to complete that step, list people you may need to contact to complete that step and contact information for them, and lots more. You can also take notes on the progress of the step in this field. Press (F10) twice when you are finished.
  2. It is important to enter your information in some consistent format. For example, list the sub-steps first, people you may need to contact next, etc. A consistent format of information in the Notes field will help you find the information you need faster.
  3. 3. Enter all the steps involved in your project. Note that there may be an overlap between some steps, as there is in Steps 1 & 2 in the above example. In such a case, we set the starting time of the overlapping step one hour later. This causes it to display properly in the Week view. So Step 1, running from Monday to Friday, starts at 8:00 a.m. Step 2, running from Wednesday to Friday the same week, starts at 9:00 a.m.



Displaying projects in Week and Month views

After you've entered the sample project described above (or your own project), press (F5), key in 1/27/1995 and press (F10) to go to that day in January. Then press (F8) to display the Week view of your new Project Management Appointment Book. You'll get a display that looks something like the one shown second from the bottom of this page. Note that three lines of information appears for each appointment. You can press (Fn)-(Spacebar) to toggle between one, two, or three lines of information.

Press (F7) to get a Month view of the project that looks something like the one shown at the very bottom of this page.

If you keep separate .ADB files for each project, you might want to set up System Macros to quickly switch between Appointment Book files. As mentioned earlier, you can keep all your projects in one .ADB file, or merge individual .ADB files to get the big picture.

Merge .ADB files as follows:

  1. 1. Open Appointment Book and press (MENU) File Open to load one of the desired .ADB files.
  2. 2. Merge another .ADB file by pressing (MENU) File Merge, select the file to merge and press (ENTER).
  3. 3. Repeat step 2 until you have merged all your separate .ADB files.



If you are going to merge your individual projects, or keep all of them in one .ADB file, make sure you begin each description with a unique 2-character key to help you identify the project. For example, I might enter the first step in the Best Tips project ad BT Select Prelim and the first step in the September / October issue project as SO Review Articles. When both projects appeared in my Week view, I can tell at a glance which step relates to Best Tips and which relate to the Sept/Oct issue.

Don't forget that you can press (MENU) File Print to print out a copy of your project, along with task descriptions from the Note field. In addition, you can use the SmartClip feature to create custom reports with information displayed the way you want it. (See page 31 this issue for more on creating SmartClips.)

Need a more sophisticated project manager?

The Appointment Book works well as a simple project manager because of its ability to display weekly and monthly views. However, the individual appointment data card was not designed for project management. Most of the additional data related to a project has to be stored in the F3 Notes field. This makes it a little bit harder to access.

If your project management needs are more exacting, you could use the Palmtops DataBase application to create a custom project management database. I believe you would still have to integrate a custom DataBase with Appointment Book to display timeline information. Maybe a Lotus aficionado could do the same thing with a spreadsheet, displaying timeline information as a graph.

There are dedicated Project Management programs galore. However, most of the newer ones are written for 386 computers running Windows, and are not suitable for the Palmtop.

The Product Index lists three Project Managers: Project KickStart, Project: Vision, and ProTracs. In addition, there are older programs written for DOS that may work on the Palmtop. Whichever you choose, good luck managing your projects with the HP Palmtop.